Skip to main content

Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

See other formats

If this were merely one of the innumerable squabbles over
priority which disfigure scientific history it would not be worth
a passing mention. Its historical importance is that Boole by
now (1848) was a firm friend and warm admirer of De Morgan.
Boole was still teaching school, but he knew many of the leading
British mathematicians personally or by correspondence. He
now came to the aid of his friend - not that the witty De
Morgan needed any mortal's aid, but because he knew that De
Morgan was right and Hamilton wrong. So, in 1848, Boole
published a slim volume, The Mathematical Analysis of Logic,
his first public contribution to the vast subject which his work
inaugurated and hi which he was to win enduring fame for the
boldness and perspicacity of his vision. The pamphlet  it was
hardly more than that - excited De Morgan's warm admiration.
Here was the master, and De Morgan hastened to recognize
him. The booklet was only the promise of greater things to come
sis years later, but Boole had definitely broken new, stubborn
In the meantime, reluctantly turning down his mathematical
friends' advice that he proceed to Cambridge and take the
orthodox mathematical training there, Boole went on with the
drudgery of elementary teaching, without a complaint, because
his parents were now wholly dependent upon his support. At
last he got an opportunity where his conspicuous abilities as an
investigator and a lecturer could have some play. He was
appointed Professor of Mathematics at the recently opened
Queen's College at what was then called the city of Cork,
Ireland. This was in 1849.
Needless to say, the brilliant man who had known only
poverty and hard work all his life made excellent use of his
comparative freedom from financial worry and everlasting
grind. His duties would now be considered onerous; Boole found
them light by contrast with the dreary round of elementary
teaching to which he had been accustomed. He produced much
notable miscellaneous mathematical work, but his main effort
went on licking his masterpiece into shape. In 1854 he pub-
lished it: An Investigation of the Laws of Thought, on which are
founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities.
K3C-YOL. n.                                        G                                                      487